HIKING THE ZION NARROWS (North Fork of the Virgin River) 

The Zion Narrows (Virgin River)Introduction:
The North Fork of the Virgin River (aka "The Zion Narrows") is probably one of the most legendary canyons to hike in all of Zion National Park. The Zion Narrows is the section of the Virgin River just upstream from the Temple of Sinawava (the end of the road up the main canyon). Here, the majestic walls of the main canyon close in to form a tall and narrow canyon with beautiful dark corners and the Virgin River flowing around you. With beautiful flowing water and barely any direct sunlight reaching the bottom, this is the slot canyon that all other slot canyons are compared to.

Three Ways to Hike the Zion Narrows:

Backcountry Permits:
You do not need a permit to do the Zion Narrows day hike from the Temple of Sinawava. You DO, however, need a Zion backcountry permit for all top-down hikes, even if you are not backpacking. If you are doing the backpacking option, you pick your campsite when you reserve or purchase the permit for your group.

The Zion Narrows (Virgin River)Two caveats: The National Park Service will not issue any Narrows permits if water levels are too high, either because of flash floods or high spring runoff. During the winter months, permits for the one-day top-down hike are also not issued as there is not enough daylight to complete the hike safely. Please see the Zion Permits website for more information.

Water Levels and Flash Floods:
What description of the Narrows would be complete without warning about the danger of flash foods and water levels! The difficulty of hiking the Narrows is greatly effected by water flow, and a strong enough rain storm can turn a calm and shallow stream into a deadly wall of rushing water. Please check the weather forecast and/or the Backcountry Desk for current conditions and for any advisories. Remember that it doesn't have to be raining directly above you for a threat to be possible. To see the current and median water levels, check the USGS's water data website.

Seasons and Spring Runoff:
The hiking season for the Zion Narrows is typically summer and autumn, but the start of the season is controlled by the spring runoff and water levels. The Backcountry Desk will not issue a permit to hike the Zion Narrows if water flow is above 130cfs. Usually the Narrows are open for business in late May or early June, but in record snowfall years like 2005 and 2011, the Narrows weren't open until mid-July. To see the current and median water levels, check the USGS's water data website.

It is possible to hike the Narrows bottom-up in fall and winter, provided you are adequately prepared for the cold water; wetsuits or even drysuits may be called for, depending on the temperatures. If you want to do the top-down Narrows in the winter, keep in mind that the NPS Service will not issue a one-day top-down permit because there is not enough daylight to complete the hike safely. Snowfall or heavy rains may also make the dirt road to Chamberlain's Ranch impassible.

Equipment Recommendations:
Beyond what you would take on any other hike (food, water, map, etc.), below is a list of some of the essential equipment you will need for any of the Zion Narrows hiking routes. If you don't have your own equipment, many of the outfitters in Springdale sell or rent equipment.

Please see the Zion Narrows Day Hike and Zion Narrows Top-Down Route descriptions for more specific route information!

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